So last week, I wrote a post about how I don’t think God owes me anything. If He never gives me a husband or an awesome job or children, I should continue in obedience to Him, even when it is hard.
This is a difficult concept to grasp because it requires us to not become weary in doing good, even when we don’t get the results that our obedience seems to deserve. Some of you brought up points that it’s difficult to “sell” something like abstinence to teens if there is no promise that God will soon deliver a spouse. Will kids really wait for sex if they’re told up front that the waiting may continue forever? But that, I think, shows us where we need to be making sure that we’re teaching and understanding the right things about God’s character.
Some of us were brought up with a kind of behavioral way of looking at God and the Bible. We read Paul’s letters and learned concepts for how to live our lives. We read Old Testament Bible stories and were taught how David was brave or Abraham was faithful. We were taught to emulate this behavior or to come away from a Bible story with a takeaway for how to live our lives.
These, I think, are useful tools, but I believe they can sometimes miss the point of what the Bible is teaching us about who God is. The Bible is a story about Yahweh God and His great character. It is showing us what He has done, how consistent He is, how His character defines every single thing He does.
I wonder if we were more intentional about noticing God in each Bible story, we would begin to trust His character more. We would be formed by the power of His Spirit in our lives, and we would want to live according to His way because we trust His way. We’d have seen His goodness and faithfulness throughout the entirety of Scripture, so we would trust that obedience to Him is the only way to go, the only way to live in true joy.
I just wrote a Sunday school curriculum, and we tried to focus it according to a God-centered way of thinking. When we read the story of Daniel and the fiery furnace, instead of focusing on the virtues of bravery or trust or peace in trials, we asked the kids what they noticed about what God was doing in the passage. What did we learn about His character? About what He was doing for His people? It’s a subtle difference, but it changes the way you look at the Bible. It makes it less about what you can get for yourself and more about what you can learn about Him.
And the things we can learn about Him, His character, His provision — are beautiful.
Yesterday at church, my pastor talked about Isaiah 40. He talked about growing weary in doing good. It reminded me of our discussion this past week here on the blog. Isaiah 40 shows us who God is — it reminds us that He is great and glorious. He is equal to no one — He brings the stars out by name each night, and we do not. God’s ways are above ours. If we never understand why we’re faced with joblessness or singleness or loneliness, we can trust that He knows what He’s doing.
But Isaiah 40 also shows us that God is compassionate. He brings comfort to His people, and He speaks tenderly to us. He loves us — which is ultimately expressed through Jesus’ humanity, His willingness to experience all of our temptations so that He can relate to us. Ultimately, we rely on His strength when we feel weary in doing good:
Why do you complain, Jacob? Why do you say, Israel, “My way is hidden from the LORD; my cause is disregarded by my God”? Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint (Isaiah 40:27-31, NIV).
He does not grow weary. Our way is not hidden from God. He loves us; He understands. His character is kind and compassionate and patient. He has promised us good. And He knows what that good looks like in each and every one of our lives.
So we continue to obey because we know His character. We have seen it at work throughout the entirety of Scripture, and we trust that He is good.